Five ambulances covering Gwent – worker’s claim

Five ambulances covering Gwent – worker’s claim

Five ambulances covering Gwent – worker’s claim

First published in News Exclusive by

A Welsh Ambulance Service worker claims just five ambulances covered the whole of Gwent one day last week.

The worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the Argus that on Wednesday October 17 only five ambulances out of 14 were covering Gwent - and three of those five were sent to Bristol at various times.

The worker claims the service is not fulfilling its care of duty to the Welsh public or to its crews and is endangering lives on both counts.

The source also claimed the Welsh Ambulance Service is understaffed due to reductions in overtime, meaning that when crew members are sick or on leave, their shifts aren't being covered.

The source said: "Paramedics are always offering to do overtime, but have been told there isn't enough money.

"On top of that, paramedics get just 30 minutes rest in a 12 hour shift. They are meant to have a further 20 minutes but it’s often forfeited.

"Because we aren’t classed as an emergency service, but an essential one, we get far less funding than the police or fire service. Yet we are probably the busiest of the three.

"Rapid response crews are being put at risk when they arrive one or two hours before an ambulance, and family members get irate when the ambulances don’t arrive.

"At the end of the day, in Gwent, we are covering an area which stretches from Rhymney to Chepstow and St Mellons. You need more than five crews covering an area that big."

We are working with staff and unions to review rota The Argus put all the worker’s allegations to the ambulance service.

Sue Jenkins, director of service delivery at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said ambulances are moved around on a daily basis, meaning the number of crews in an area will change depending on activity and demand.

She said: "Crews from the Gwent area frequently convey patients to hospital in Bristol and other areas across the border into England."

She added while they are committed to responding to patients and providing the very best care possible, they do so within the resources available.

"Work is ongoing with staff and unions to review our current rota and rest break policies which have been in place for a number of years and do not reflect the increase in demand.

She said: "Cover for sick and annual leave as well as overtime is provided where the demand needs are greatest."

Comments (7)

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9:24am Tue 23 Oct 12

spanner100 says...

When if ever is the Welsh Ambulance Service going o be brought up to the standard that is needed. This situation has been ongoing for years and seems to be getting very serious.Daily I see money being wasted by Government departments on non essential activities.MESSAGE TO WELSH AMBULANCE AUTHORITY.....GET OFF YOUR USELESS BACKSIDES AND SORT THIS ESSENTIAL SERVICE OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!.
When if ever is the Welsh Ambulance Service going o be brought up to the standard that is needed. This situation has been ongoing for years and seems to be getting very serious.Daily I see money being wasted by Government departments on non essential activities.MESSAGE TO WELSH AMBULANCE AUTHORITY.....GET OFF YOUR USELESS BACKSIDES AND SORT THIS ESSENTIAL SERVICE OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!. spanner100
  • Score: 0

11:08am Tue 23 Oct 12

signal box says...

The Welsh Ambulance Service has major problem's, poor funding, poor management at a Senior Level who are only to willing to attribute blame for poor performance on subordinate staff who are trying to reach performance standards with out the resource's being available. Let's see if WAG can sort out the poor & bullying managers.
The Welsh Ambulance Service has major problem's, poor funding, poor management at a Senior Level who are only to willing to attribute blame for poor performance on subordinate staff who are trying to reach performance standards with out the resource's being available. Let's see if WAG can sort out the poor & bullying managers. signal box
  • Score: 0

12:44pm Tue 23 Oct 12

Aquarius says...

Both former and current employees of the Ambulance Service are fully aware of the continuing problems with the Service. As already stated, management is not too good in many cases.

There is far too much of a "nothing to do with me" attitude and some managers seem to get on within the Service much more easily if they do not speak out when they see problems. But then again, as these same people are frequently the cause of the problems in the first place, why would they? Current managerial practice is to manage by very many various 'directives' which paper over cracks and which are designed mainly to unfairly lay the blame at various people lower down the chain when things go wrong. It is Control Staff who are most frequently blamed, as noted by the Local Government Ombudsman in his last report on an Ambulance Service complaint. Despite the fact that there is very often a huge shortfall in available professional ambulance staff. What can Control Staff do when they don't have the vehicles available? Perhaps the Argus could obtain the records for the Gwent area day shift last Christmas Day. The workload faced by Ambulance Control due to a lack of available ambulance crews (both dual manned and single manned response vehicles) would shock any member of the public.

When there is a palpable lack of resources, NO AMOUNT of dynamic deployment is going to cover up the fact that several stations in consecutive towns are unmanned. One vehicle cannot hope to cover the territory normally covered by 3 vehicles. And what then replaces that one vehicle, once it is then committed to a call? You eventually run out of resources. This is why Community First Responders are now so important - all to often, they are the ONLY resource left to send to calls. Even the Ambulance Service's own Rapid Response Vehicle staff - deployed singly - can be left with seriously ill patients for up to an hour or more awaiting a back-up ambulance to actually transport the patient to hospital.

How therefore are the published response figures not worse than they are? Easy. Rapid Response Vehicles (when they are available) and especially community responders count as a response for the purpose of statistics. If they arrive at a life threatening call within 8 minutes, the Welsh Government's response standards box is duly ticked. There are also various 'administrative' wheezes. Don't get me wrong, First Responders can and do provide vital assistance, but their efficiency at arriving at calls within their own community also very neatly serves to mask a very dangerous problem with the response of the professional ambulance service.

It's not just the Gwent area. Powys and West Wales, parts of North Wales, South and South West Wales....the list goes on. Another similar claim was lodged with another newspaper last week regarding poor cover in the Swansea area. These staff are concerned people....they are NOT lying. And the response from the 'Director of Service Delivery' was almost word-for-word the same in that case as it is here in Gwent. They formulate various effective-sounding phrases with the Public Relations staff and then pass them out in the hope that concern will be quelled. Often, these managers and Directors have little or no practical experience of the problems operational OR Control Staff are facing. You would certainly never see them in the Control Room; they couldn't sit down and do the job.They wouldn't last 10 minutes.

As for the 'overtime' which is mentioned as available for shift cover by the Trust, there is a very small amount available to cover shifts every month. It usually doesn't come anywhere near to covering the actual requirements for effective cover and of course any short notice sickness is certainly not covered.

It's not ideal that staff are having to 'leak' stories to the press. But there are very real fears that staff are being bullied and intimidated for speaking out. As an ex member of staff, even I hesitated to write this.

One other thing. The Ambulance Service has long been prevented by the Welsh Assembly from making meaningful comments about the Service. That remains. Everything that is currently happening in the Ambulance Service is known to the Health Minister. The way statistics are compiled (and poor though they are, they are frequently worse in reality) is done with the full knowledge and approval of the Welsh Government. The response that the Ambulance Service makes is also approved by the Government.

With the level of distortion and untruth that the public are getting from Ambulance managers AND the Government, you can be sure that this problem will get worse, not better, as the Winter progresses.
Both former and current employees of the Ambulance Service are fully aware of the continuing problems with the Service. As already stated, management is not too good in many cases. There is far too much of a "nothing to do with me" attitude and some managers seem to get on within the Service much more easily if they do not speak out when they see problems. But then again, as these same people are frequently the cause of the problems in the first place, why would they? Current managerial practice is to manage by very many various 'directives' which paper over cracks and which are designed mainly to unfairly lay the blame at various people lower down the chain when things go wrong. It is Control Staff who are most frequently blamed, as noted by the Local Government Ombudsman in his last report on an Ambulance Service complaint. Despite the fact that there is very often a huge shortfall in available professional ambulance staff. What can Control Staff do when they don't have the vehicles available? Perhaps the Argus could obtain the records for the Gwent area day shift last Christmas Day. The workload faced by Ambulance Control due to a lack of available ambulance crews (both dual manned and single manned response vehicles) would shock any member of the public. When there is a palpable lack of resources, NO AMOUNT of dynamic deployment is going to cover up the fact that several stations in consecutive towns are unmanned. One vehicle cannot hope to cover the territory normally covered by 3 vehicles. And what then replaces that one vehicle, once it is then committed to a call? You eventually run out of resources. This is why Community First Responders are now so important - all to often, they are the ONLY resource left to send to calls. Even the Ambulance Service's own Rapid Response Vehicle staff - deployed singly - can be left with seriously ill patients for up to an hour or more awaiting a back-up ambulance to actually transport the patient to hospital. How therefore are the published response figures not worse than they are? Easy. Rapid Response Vehicles (when they are available) and especially community responders count as a response for the purpose of statistics. If they arrive at a life threatening call within 8 minutes, the Welsh Government's response standards box is duly ticked. There are also various 'administrative' wheezes. Don't get me wrong, First Responders can and do provide vital assistance, but their efficiency at arriving at calls within their own community also very neatly serves to mask a very dangerous problem with the response of the professional ambulance service. It's not just the Gwent area. Powys and West Wales, parts of North Wales, South and South West Wales....the list goes on. Another similar claim was lodged with another newspaper last week regarding poor cover in the Swansea area. These staff are concerned people....they are NOT lying. And the response from the 'Director of Service Delivery' was almost word-for-word the same in that case as it is here in Gwent. They formulate various effective-sounding phrases with the Public Relations staff and then pass them out in the hope that concern will be quelled. Often, these managers and Directors have little or no practical experience of the problems operational OR Control Staff are facing. You would certainly never see them in the Control Room; they couldn't sit down and do the job.They wouldn't last 10 minutes. As for the 'overtime' which is mentioned as available for shift cover by the Trust, there is a very small amount available to cover shifts every month. It usually doesn't come anywhere near to covering the actual requirements for effective cover and of course any short notice sickness is certainly not covered. It's not ideal that staff are having to 'leak' stories to the press. But there are very real fears that staff are being bullied and intimidated for speaking out. As an ex member of staff, even I hesitated to write this. One other thing. The Ambulance Service has long been prevented by the Welsh Assembly from making meaningful comments about the Service. That remains. Everything that is currently happening in the Ambulance Service is known to the Health Minister. The way statistics are compiled (and poor though they are, they are frequently worse in reality) is done with the full knowledge and approval of the Welsh Government. The response that the Ambulance Service makes is also approved by the Government. With the level of distortion and untruth that the public are getting from Ambulance managers AND the Government, you can be sure that this problem will get worse, not better, as the Winter progresses. Aquarius
  • Score: 0

1:42pm Tue 23 Oct 12

signal box says...

I must agree with Aquarius that the performance figures are being massaged to indicate that the Welsh Ambulance Service is not now the worst performing Ambulance Service in the UK and this is with WAG's knowledge and approval. Spanner 100 has highlighted wasted money I have been made aware that an Ambulance Manager has resided at a local hotel for the last four years at what cost, this money should have been spent on providing Operational Ambulance staff who could respond to Emergency and Urgent calls. Therefore improving performance and reducing stress levels.
I must agree with Aquarius that the performance figures are being massaged to indicate that the Welsh Ambulance Service is not now the worst performing Ambulance Service in the UK and this is with WAG's knowledge and approval. Spanner 100 has highlighted wasted money I have been made aware that an Ambulance Manager has resided at a local hotel for the last four years at what cost, this money should have been spent on providing Operational Ambulance staff who could respond to Emergency and Urgent calls. Therefore improving performance and reducing stress levels. signal box
  • Score: 0

1:31pm Wed 24 Oct 12

5 P Rule says...

Well, Sue Jenkins has got a career in politics when she leaves the Ambulance Service. They avoid answering questions too.
Well, Sue Jenkins has got a career in politics when she leaves the Ambulance Service. They avoid answering questions too. 5 P Rule
  • Score: 0

2:53pm Wed 24 Oct 12

ValleyLad says...

How can the trust defend spending approx £150,000 for a manager to stay in Hotel accomodation for 4/5 years ? perhaps the Argus can obtain the true figure along with travelling expences between North and South Wales currently 0.58 per mile.

This money should have been spent on front line services.
How can the trust defend spending approx £150,000 for a manager to stay in Hotel accomodation for 4/5 years ? perhaps the Argus can obtain the true figure along with travelling expences between North and South Wales currently 0.58 per mile. This money should have been spent on front line services. ValleyLad
  • Score: 0

9:53am Fri 26 Oct 12

Gareth says...

Fantastic post, thank you Aquarius.
Fantastic post, thank you Aquarius. Gareth
  • Score: 0

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